A different Rabindranath not at peace with himself

Dhaka,  Wed,  23 August 2017
Published : 12 May 2017, 20:34:47

A different Rabindranath not at peace with himself

A different Rabindranath not at peace with himself
Nilratan Halder
That the mental makeup of Rabindranath Thakur is multi-dimensional is known. But to have a measure of the diversity is to encounter a dilemma of how to rank him in order of his pursuance of different branches of literature. It was not unnatural for the Westerners to take him for a hermit or saint poet. All because the West came to know first of his 'Gitanjali', the Song Offerings rendered into English by the poet himself. Indeed, the songs are offered as a tribute to the feet of the Supreme Being or, as some may interpret, to the beloved. The first interpretation suits the Westerners better for a number of reasons --political and materialistic considerations accentuating the crisis of soul.

It was the time when Rabindranath was not even accepted as a major poet at home. In fact, scathing criticisms poured in from a section of literary circle. The fact is Thakur was far ahead of his time. Even today, on certain considerations his modernity is still a few steps ahead of time. For example, his attitude towards nationalism and humanism keeps him apart because narrowness could not blur his vision when it comes to the universalism of man.   

Indisputably, his intellectual height and refined taste he inherited from his family never allowed him to stoop low or crack vulgar jokes or create a comedy with comic scenes capable of producing uncontrollable laughter in his audience or readers. But the subtle variation of moods and occasional intellectual mild or sharp twist and turn more than compensate for the lacking. Taser Desh (country of cards) is a satire, so is Tota Kahini (tale of parrot) and they are far removed from the everyday experiences and still they deliver powerful lashing at social anachronism and disparities. The paradox is all too evident.

In his novels Ghare Baire (home and away from home) and Gora, Rabindranath has not stopped short of depicting the weakness of nationalism and the foibles or at times the shallowness of the promoters or upholders of this idealistic concept. He has warned of the danger from rabid nationalism. No wonder that Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath could not disagree  more on nationalism.

Notwithstanding his voluminous works in almost all branches of literature, the creative genius had experienced an explosion of talent in a completely different genre of creativity, painting that is. What emerged is not as aesthetically comfortable as his other forms are. Here he gave expression to things that could not come out of his deep and dark reaches of mind. He painted as if he was possessed and the pictures not developed following the traditional shape and measurement had expressions of anger, hatred and suppressed aggression. In fact, a complex set of optical illusions took shape of images hitherto unknown.

Was he not at peace at the considerably advanced age? The saint poet certainly had to release the pent-up emotions through the paintings. This is how most critics like to view his years of obsession with paintings. But a simplification such as this cannot explain the whole matter. Sure enough, Thakur had to give expression through abstract images of paintings in his own special way with no mildness or glamour softening the tone and texture that was then the essence of Indian art.

It appears, Rabindranath had more layers of consciousness than ordinary people. The man who can write on the small river for children can as well write a masterpiece like Gora where he sheds light on the deepest reaches of man and woman as well as the mundane politics of the time. The deductive debates are as gripping as the human relations that transcend beyond race and religion but not until the main protagonist Gora discovers that he is but an adopted son with blood inheriting from the white people against whom he has launched his campaign.

Even these pragmatic considerations with the final twist to the story cannot match the insight he develops from the loss of near and dear ones one after another. He has immortalised sorrows and pains that have riven his hearts so often and mercilessly to say the least. If he reaches the stature of a saint or hermit poet, it is exactly at this point. The new insight has made a life's deity out of sorrow or bereavement.

Now did a part of his soul also revolt against the procession of deaths he had to endure? What he could not express in his words finally got expressed through his brush! Rabindranath never hinted at any such possibility. But certainly, he was hungry for love -one that is not wrapped up by fame and showy adoration. It is likely to be true that heart-to-heart appreciation of the true worth between two human beings staying on the same intellectual wavelength that he perhaps craved for.

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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